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Album Review: Death Grips – Fashion Week

What is Death Grips’ new surprise instrumental album Fashion Week? Juggling many styles and sometimes unfocused, the album itself may not even know what it is. After announcing their break-up and final album on a napkin, this is likely to be the next to last Death Grips release. The last letter of all tracks spell the name of the final album, JENNY DEATH, followed by WHEN, encapsulating how masterful Death Grips—for a reticent band that has been disdainful of media—is at provoking speculation and blog buzz about future releases. For fans of the enigmatic rap duo, this release gives great insight into the group’s creative process.
The most glaring characteristic of the album is the lack of frontman MC Ride’s drill sergeant-barking vocals—or really, any vocals at all. Death Grips’ chopped and sped-up vocal samples gave a lot of its prior releases character, but the human voice in all forms is totally absent from Fashion Week. These tracks run the gambit in quality from more disposable such as “Runway N (1),” which could be the music for a late night Adult Swim animation, to more substantial instrumental beats that have the choppy aggression of earlier Death Grips releases. Some beats, such as the abrasive alarm-like synths of “Runway E (3)” and the oddly industrial yet dancehall-esque “Runway A”, just need the yelling/rapping of MC Ride to be full-fledged quality Death Grips songs.
Death Grips does get creative though, filling the void left by the vocals: “Runway N (2)” is built on an aggressive, throbbing guitar line that propels the track in the absence of MC Ride, and “Runway H’s” cathartic use of guitar strangely recalls some of Deerhoof’s brightest and best guitar lines.
Although the album seems three-quarters formed and inaccessible for new listeners, fans and dedicated listeners will enjoy the variety of tracks and textures. A few may even have the courage to play MC Ride and rap over some tracks.

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